Every extra second your page takes to load damages your business. Every second faster elevates you above your competition. This is what we deal with every day at XWP for clients needing high tech, highly customized websites that don’t lose out on performance.
As a web industry professional, you know page speed is important, but for too many of us in this industry, it’s usually a bit of an afterthought. We build functionality, refine the user interface, integrate new technologies, and then after the fact we check in to see what happened to our page speed. It’s why our team at XWP is curated from experts around the globe to think about it for you.
In short, it’s crucial to have a fast website. On-page and delivery performance shouldn’t be a second-tier focus. It should be part of the core of a digital strategy.
While critical technical details—be it bundle sizing, resource prioritization, or device optimizations—are complex topics, there’s a lot that can go wrong without focusing on the user experience. With the measurable and highly-studied impact that performance has on website ROI metrics, we need to care about speed.
XWP’s friends at Heavy have, from our very earliest engagement, held high performance as a pillar of every project. It’s either been a filter through which all work needs to pass or the very focus of the work itself. Why? Because the site visitor never sees the feature/product/article that doesn’t load.
Increase measured the first month after the rollout:
None of this is new, but we find ourselves often returning to this topic and reminding ourselves of the why. It’s like healthy eating. We all know it’s essential, but we need to remind ourselves what the reality of a life of saturated fats and sugars will have on our well being. Like our bodies, we shouldn’t feed our website’s junk food.
So here are some of the things remind ourselves of when justifying our commitment to developing code that delivers excellent performance.
1: Improvements (and Penalties) in Search Discovery
You wouldn’t be the only one to think that search engines are in the business of serving the “right things” to people.
You’d be wrong to think that’s all they do. They are in the business of:
- Serving the right things
- Serving the right things that can also be consumed by the visitor.
Google, Bing, and the rest would prefer not to send a user to a site if the user leaves before the content even loads, regardless of how good the content is.
It doesn’t matter if the content of a web page has everything you are searching for if you don’t hang around long enough to read it.
Since 2018, Google has been transparent about its algorithms prioritizing fast experiences.
Much of this has to do with images, stylesheets, and scripts fighting for limited resources. Even on flagship phones with blazing fast processors and heaps of memory, mobile internet across the globe is spotty.
Despite quite publicly announcing this, sites are too slow. From the Search team:
“Our research has been eye-opening. For 70% of the mobile landing pages we analyzed, it took more than five seconds for the visual content above the fold to display on the screen, and it took more than seven seconds to fully load all visual content above and below the fold.”
Not prioritizing resources means that your users are sitting there waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And then the content maybe displays. And many times, popups are preventing them from moving forward and engaging. Google is clear that this is a no-no and will penalize in search ranking.
TL;DR: Faster, easier-to-use pages rank higher.
2: The pain of Bounce Rate
If a search engine doesn’t prefer your page, it’s because site visitors don’t like your page. If people are “bouncing” off your site because of page speed, that’s not good. Studies show that the bounce rate climbs steadily as page load time increases.
“What we found was that, unsurprisingly, a page’s load time directly impacts bounce rate. As soon as the page load time surpasses 3 seconds, the bounce rate soars, to 38% by the time it hits 5 seconds!”
3: Increased eCommerce Conversion
After bounce rate, this is just another obvious fact. A snappy web experience contributes to better eCommerce conversions.
- It instills a sense of confidence and trust in your business. “If the website is good, it must be run by a company that cares for its customers. I trust these people!”
- Impatience. Modern web users can’t be bothered waiting around. They’ll move on to something else — AKA a competition.
- It gives less time to change their minds. Not all online purchases are necessities. People can think themselves out of almost any purchase if they have enough time
47% of customers expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or less.
Let’s do a simple exercise. Say you have a mattress-in-a-box e-commerce store. Your average sale is $700 with a site visitor to sale conversion rate of 1.5%. Through various marketing efforts, you get 10 thousand people to click on your URL. If you have an average site which loads in ~3.3s, 11% of them won’t even see your website as they’d bounce and you’d make 133 sales. If you improved the site speed by just one second, 5% more people would see your site, but also your conversion rate would probably increase by 0.4% up to 1.9% and result in an additional 45 more sales. By adding it all up we get 30K$ more revenue, which is a whopping 30% business increase.
In addition, you can choose a hosting partner that works closely with e-commerce sites (like Pressable) and benefit from the added value to your subscription: Jetpack Premium which, beyond performance improvements, comes with a ton of perks including expanded security and malware scanning. The added discounts to Jilt Email Marketing are also welcomed as extra help to minimize the effects of cart abandonment.
4: Threats to Brand Equity
Product quality and customer experience are the two most significant contributors to brand equity (the scale and quality of your target markets’ cognitive perception of your brand). Marketing efforts only go so far in building brand equity. Legitimate customer experience is what establishes (or destroys) the long-term strength of a brand.
For the majority of businesses, the digital experience is the only customer experience. Even if it’s not the only experience, it’s a massive contributor. Delivering a customer experience that is smooth and fast elevates the user’s perception of your brand.
GOAT is the first of Nova Entertainment sites to go live as a PWA site powered by a performance-focused theme, with all templates built as Native AMP.
5: Maintainability and Longevity
This one goes more under the ‘it depends’ category. Page performance, good or bad, is caused by something. Most of the time, in our experience, good code is performant code. Good code shows that the system has been architected well and, through its structure, care, and proper documentation can be easily maintained by a responsible team. Focusing on performance means focusing on doing things right. By doing things right, the quality of your site’s codebase gets better, and that makes the entire system easier to maintain.
6: The Environment
Yes! For real.
We realized this about 12 months ago. These websites we build leverage physical hardware, even if we never see it, running in all sorts of places around the world. That electricity running those machines is generated, more often than not, by non-renewable resources. The more inefficient your site is, the more resources are consumed to deliver it to your site visitors. In a world that needs to do a better job at improving the way we consume our natural resources, shaving a second or two off the average load time of your site can make a difference. For sites we’ve worked on that receive millions of visits a day, we’re talking a massive difference.
Cutting down website carbon emissions by more than 80% is possible.
Solutions to the problem
The reality is, you have to focus on your visitors’ experience. We recommend the following:
- Build it right from the beginning. Agencies like XWP focus on innovative approaches to web development. This means fewer problems from the start.
- Stop loading “it” the wrong way. Media assets, stylesheets and script files require specific optimizations in delivery, and most sites can see significant benefits by tweaking their loading to attain top performance.
- Understand your plugins, changes, and experience. Your system was likely “built once” and turned onto a maintenance path. You need to understand what happens when you update your software (which you should do!).
- Consider “another layer.” Cloudflare, beyond being the industry leader in Denial of Service protection, offers a plethora of turn-key website optimizations which can be enabled on top of any host.
- Choose a host that has low latency. Metrics like Time-To-First-Byte directly impact the experience of every user. In 2018 ReviewSignal’s WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks Pressable earned 5/5 Top Tier awards, confirming the value in the performance offered. A fast ttfb doesn’t guarantee a fast experience but a slow ttfb does guarantee a slow experience.
Performance is important. We all know that! How important though… sometimes we need to take a break, step out of the “implementing a new feature” cycle, and remind ourselves of how performance really impacts our users, and by extension, our business.
Implementing a performance-focused workflow within dev projects takes practice and is something we have plenty of experience in. If you have questions, we’d love to answer them either in the comments below or via the contact form on our website.